My publications


Umar Riaz Muhammad, Yongxin Yang, Timothy Hospedales, Tao Xiang, Yi-Zhe Song (2019)Goal-Driven Sequential Data Abstraction, In: 2019 IEEE/CVF International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV)pp. 71-80 IEEE

Automatic data abstraction is an important capability for both benchmarking machine intelligence and supporting summarization applications. In the former one asks whether a machine can `understand' enough about the meaning of input data to produce a meaningful but more compact abstraction. In the latter this capability is exploited for saving space or human time by summarizing the essence of input data. In this paper we study a general reinforcement learning based framework for learning to abstract sequential data in a goal-driven way. The ability to define different abstraction goals uniquely allows different aspects of the input data to be preserved according to the ultimate purpose of the abstraction. Our reinforcement learning objective does not require human-defined examples of ideal abstraction. Importantly our model processes the input sequence holistically without being constrained by the original input order. Our framework is also domain agnostic -- we demonstrate applications to sketch, video and text data and achieve promising results in all domains.

Ayan Kumar Bhunia, Ayan Das, Umar Riaz Muhammad, Yongxin Yang, Timothy M. Hospedales, Tao Xiang, Yulia Gryaditskaya, Yi-Zhe Song (2020)Pixelor: A Competitive Sketching AI Agent. So you think you can sketch?, In: ACM Transactions on Graphics39(6) Association for Computing Machinery (ACM)

We present the first competitive drawing agent Pixelor that exhibits human-level performance at a Pictionary-like sketching game, where the participant whose sketch is recognized first is a winner. Our AI agent can autonomously sketch a given visual concept, and achieve a recognizable rendition as quickly or faster than a human competitor. The key to victory for the agent’s goal is to learn the optimal stroke sequencing strategies that generate the most recognizable and distinguishable strokes first. Training Pixelor is done in two steps. First, we infer the stroke order that maximizes early recognizability of human training sketches. Second, this order is used to supervise the training of a sequence-to-sequence stroke generator. Our key technical contributions are a tractable search of the exponential space of orderings using neural sorting; and an improved Seq2Seq Wasserstein (S2S-WAE) generator that uses an optimal-transport loss to accommodate the multi-modal nature of the optimal stroke distribution. Our analysis shows that Pixelor is better than the human players of the Quick, Draw! game, under both AI and human judging of early recognition. To analyze the impact of human competitors’ strategies, we conducted a further human study with participants being given unlimited thinking time and training in early recognizability by feedback from an AI judge. The study shows that humans do gradually improve their strategies with training, but overall Pixelor still matches human performance. The code and the dataset are available at

U.R. Muhammad, Y. Yang, Yi-Zhe Song, T. Xiang, T.M. Hospedales (2019)Learning Deep Sketch Abstraction, In: Proceedings of the 2018 IEEE/CVF Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognitionpp. 8014-8023 IEEE Computer Society

Human free-hand sketches have been studied in various contexts including sketch recognition, synthesis and fine-grained sketch-based image retrieval (FG-SBIR). A fundamental challenge for sketch analysis is to deal with drastically different human drawing styles, particularly in terms of abstraction level. In this work, we propose the first stroke-level sketch abstraction model based on the insight of sketch abstraction as a process of trading off between the recognizability of a sketch and the number of strokes used to draw it. Concretely, we train a model for abstract sketch generation through reinforcement learning of a stroke removal policy that learns to predict which strokes can be safely removed without affecting recognizability. We show that our abstraction model can be used for various sketch analysis tasks including: (1) modeling stroke saliency and understanding the decision of sketch recognition models, (2) synthesizing sketches of variable abstraction for a given category, or reference object instance in a photo, and (3) training a FG-SBIR model with photos only, bypassing the expensive photo-sketch pair collection step.